Introducing the Classics Challenge

In August, I found and joined the Classics Challenge. (I think it’s actually called the Classics Club, but I really don’t like the word Club. It sounds too much like the Babysitters’ Club.) You pick fifty classic books (and your definition can be as broad or as narrow as you like) and commit to reading them over the course of five years. That means roughly one of these a month, and I’ve read five now. One reason this is useful is that it will force me to slow my reading. Quite often, I read fast, without reflecting as much as I could. Sometimes things sink in or percolate; other times, I know that a little more mental application would open up more interesting angles on what I’ve just read, but tend to feel as though I haven’t got the time. For the Classics Challenge, I’ve got a notebook (with an owl on the front, of course) and am taking a few pages of notes on each book I read, which should help to clarify and expand reviews. The second reason this is useful is that, despite having taken a degree in English, there are some surprising gaps in my reading (A Tale of Two Cities, anyone?) and, in addition, I want to continue reading good books, old books, unusual books. Just because I’m not in formal education is no reason to stop reading them. Here’s the full list. There’ll be a permanent link to it in the header. And I’ll be posting catch-up reviews to each of the books from the past five months, before writing monthly Classics Challenge reviews (along with regular reviews of other books, of course). At the moment, crossed-out titles are ones I’ve finished but not reviewed yet, and the red links are to reviews.

  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh, by Anon. (13th-10th century BC)
  2. The Iliad, by Homer (~8th century BC)
  3. The Odyssey, by Homer (~8th century BC)
  4. The Poetic Edda, by Anon. (10th century AD)
  5. The Mabinogion, by Anon. (~11th century AD)
  6. The Masnavi, Book One, by Rumi (1258)
  7. The Kalevala, coll. Elias Lonnrot (collected 19th century AD)
  8. The Book of Margery Kempe, by Margery Kempe (1490s)
  9. Essais by Montaigne (1580)
  10. The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish (1666)
  11. The Princesse de Cleves, by Madame de Lafayette (1678)
  12. Oroonoko, by Aphra Behn (1688)
  13. The New Atalantis, by Delariviere Manley (1709)
  14. A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe (1722)
  15. The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay (1728)
  16. Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, by John Cleland (1748)
  17. Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson (1748)
  18. The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett (1748)
  19. Cecilia, by Fanny Burney (1782)
  20. A Simple Story, by Elizabeth Inchbald (1791)
  21. The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Anne Radcliffe (1794)
  22. Zofloya, or The Moor, by Charlotte Dacre (1806)
  23. Major Works of John Clare (1820-1835)
  24. Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte (1847)
  25. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte (1848)
  26. Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte (1849)
  27. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)
  28. Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1856)
  29. The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, by Dorothy Wordsworth (pub. 1897)
  30. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens (1859)
  31. The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (1859)
  32. Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862)
  33. The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope (1867) 
  34. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins (1868) 
  35. The Fortune of the Rougons, by Emile Zola (1871)
  36. The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James (1881) 
  37. Hester, by Margaret Oliphant (1883)
  38. The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham (1919)
  39. Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)
  40. August Folly, by Angela Thirkell (1936)
  41. Selected Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1937)
  42. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway (1940)
  43. Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch (1954)
  44. Goldfinger, by Ian Fleming (1959)
  45. Beloved, by Toni Morrison (1987)
  46. Here Be Dragons, by Stella Gibbons (1956)
  47. Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess (1980)
  48. Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter (1984)
  49. Wise Children, by Angela Carter (1991)
  50. A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth (1993)
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